On nanotechnology, experts see more risks than public
2007-11-28 0:00

By Marlowe Hood | news.yahoo.com


In a surprising reversal of roles, nanotechnology scientists outrival the general public in seeing a cause for concern in some aspects of their work, according to a study published Sunday.

Nanotechnology -- the science of making things measured in units 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair -- holds spectacular promise in virtually every sector.

Hundreds of consumer products already contain nano materials, most of which are cosmetics, sunscreens and cleaning products with microscopic particles.

But this is the only first step in what promoters of nano say is a revolution whose impact will be outsized compared to the technology's tiny scale.

In medicine, potential applications range from in-body diagnostic devices to tissue engineering to pinpoint drug delivery.

Nanomaterials far lighter and stronger than anything in use today could revolutionise the auto and airplane industries, and parallel developments are underway for robotics, computers, clothing, energy storage and air purification.

Two surveys, conducted among 363 nanotechnology scientists and engineers and among 1,015 US adults, find an intriguing contrast in attitudes about this fast-moving yet untested technology.

The average Joe and Jane are more worried than the experts that nano will cause job losses, an arms race and a loss of privacy, according to the surveys published on Sunday in Nature.

The scientists, unsurprisingly, say their work will lead to major breakthroughs in medicine, environmental cleanup and national defence.

But they are also significantly more concerned than the public about the risk of more pollution and unforeseen health problems from nano.

The authors of the study, led by Dietram Scheufele of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, chalk up this gap in viewpoints to two things.

One is that scientists have already launched a debate among themselves about nano-related risks, and lament a lack of research in this field. At the same time, the media promote the potential benefits of nano and downplay the risk aspect, thus giving a distorted view to the public.

Researchers looking at nano risks are focussing on any effect on health from minute particles that are breathed in to the lungs or from putative nano-robots that would be inserted into the body to repair damaged tissue. Questions have also been raised as to whether nano materials could be toxic, for health and the environment.

"The Nano story is one of very slow and rather weak regulatory responses," commented Nigel Cameron, head of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future at the Illinois Institute of Technology and an expert on nanotechnology.

"Public and political awareness of the technology -- even though we have been talking about it for some time -- is amazingly low," he said in an interview with AFP.

In the past, the arrival of new technologies such as nuclear power or genetically-modified organisms are typically greeted with public enthusiasm followed by disquiet when an accident happens or other risks become apparent.

Such backlashes have had a crippling effect in some countries, prompting a freeze or pullout from nuclear power or a moratorium on genetically-engineered crops.

By addressing the risks before their technology widely enters the public domain, nano experts hope to forestall this backward swing of the pendulum.

"Nanotechnology may... be the first emerging technology for which scientists may have to explain to the public why they should be more rather than less concerned about some potential risks," said Scheufele.

Article from:



Related Articles
Bring on the nanobots, and we will live long and prosper
Chips push through nano-barrier
The Electron, Nanotechnology, and Solar Power
Douglas Mulhall - Nanotechnology, Our Molecular Future (Audio)
Nano-propellers sent for a spin
Antique engines inspire nano chip
Nanogenerator provides continuous power by harvesting energy from the environment
Nanotechnology Risks Unknown
The next big bang: Man meets machine
Better... Stronger... Faster... the engineered human
Physicists have 'solved' mystery of levitation
Berkeley Physicists Make a Radio 10,000 Times Thinner Than a Human Hair
South African Solar Research Eclipses Rest of the World
Aubrey de Grey, Artificial Intelligence, Singularity, Longevity and the Holy Grail
The Creation of Smarter Than Human Intelligence
Maryland's Prometheus
Patent sought on 'synthetic life'
'Darth Venter' (J. Craig Venter) & The Archon Genomics X Prize
The Invincible Man
Lifespan link to antidepressant drug


Latest News from our Front Page

41% of Americans Support Criminalizing "Hate Speech"
2015-05-23 7:31
The following are from a recent poll about what some are calling on for "hate speech" 1. Support for Hate Crimes Legislation Do you support or oppose the federal law that requires increased penalties for hate crimes committed on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or gender of any person? 2. Support for Expanding Hate Crimes Do ...
FBI Admits No Major Cases Cracked with Patriot Act Snooping Powers
2015-05-23 7:36
FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk ...
Sweetener Stevia Was Once Hailed As An Anti-Fertility Agent for Population Reduction
2015-05-23 7:13
Maybe it's not so sweet now... If you've thought stevia, the natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweetners with aspartame, et al., is too good to be true, there may be a catch. Check out this textbook written in 1970 by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, the precursor to the textbook Ecoscience they wrote with Obama Science Czar John P. Holdren ...
TPP Aproved: Senate Republicans Give Obama New Powers - Details Remain 'Classified'
2015-05-23 6:43
President Obama won a big victory for his trade agenda Friday with the Senate’s approval of fast-track legislation that could make it easier for him to complete a wide-ranging trade deal that would include 11 Pacific Rim nations. A coalition of 48 Senate Republicans and 14 Democrats voted for Trade Promotion Authority late Friday, sending the legislation to a difficult fight ...
Circumcision battle: Mom seeks release from jail after federal lawsuit is dismissed
2015-05-23 3:22
West Boynton mother on Wednesday gave up trying to get a federal judge to stop her 4 1/2-year-old son from being circumcised as his father wishes — a battle that also led to her arrest May 14 on a state court warrant. An attorney for Heather Hironimus, who lost similar legal challenges in two state courts, notified U.S. District Judge Kenneth ...
More News »